After almost two decades of showcasing his talent and passion on the hard court, the “Cebuano Hotshot” Dondon Hontiveros can’t ask for more.
He barged into the prestigious Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) via the unusual route as he had to work hard in another inter-region league, the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) to get noticed.
True enough, in just a couple years wearing the Cebuana Lhuillier-backed Cebu Gems, he became the toast of the town.
For the next 17 years, hot-shooting Dondon would ply his trade in the PBA , carrying the banners of the Tanduay Rhum for two years, San Miguel (10 years) and Alaska Aces (five).
At 40, Dondon finally hanged his jersey and what’s next?
He just refuses to completely bid goodbye to the sport and now plans to focus on honing the skills of young players through summer weekend basketball camps he has launched with the sponsorship of Cebuana Lhuillier, the owner of the team that nurtured his pro basketball career.
Since August 2015, the project has successfully organized camps in Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and Ormoc City and has not stopped honing young talents to become the next cage superstars.
“I want to encourage the youth to go into sports because it teaches values and discipline that would help them become better persons. As for me, basketball has really helped develop my character so if there’s a chance, I hope young Filipinos would try to go into sports, too,” he said.
Just like the man who saw a great potential in him, invested in his talent, and supported his career, Hontiveros now pays it forward by providing opportunities to young players to achieve the same basketball dream he had when he was just a small town boy.
A 13-time PBA All-Star player with a career total of 7,598 points, Dondon’s’ love for the sport runs deep and started early in his childhood.
“My father would always buy basketball rings and build basketball posts in our home. Since then, I became a PBA fan. I would always read stories of PBA players in sports magazines,” he shared.
Dondon eventually became a varsity high school basketball player for Don Bosco Technology Center and continued playing for the University of Cebu in college. He was a regular school athlete until someone took notice and offered him the opportunity of a lifetime.
“During the Philippine National Games in Cebu, Mr. Jean Henri Lhuillier, the owner of Cebu Gems, was there watching. Fortunately, I played a good game that day and I think that was the turning point when they decided to finally sign me for Cebu Gems,” he said.
Dondon was one of the pioneer players of Cebu Gems, a Cebuana Lhuillier-sponsored team formed to represent Cebu and compete in the now-defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) in 1998.
“In Grade 6, we were told to write down what we wanted to be by the year 2000. I wrote that I would be a PBA player, and it came true. Towards the end of 1999, I was still signed under the Cebu Gems when the opportunity to play in the PBA came. I talked to my mentors, teammates, and to Sir Jean Henri about my plans,” he said.
“I really owe a lot to Sir Jean Henri and Cebuana Lhuillier for giving me the opportunity to play in the MBA and for allowing me to cut my contract short so I could play in the PBA,” he added.
Dondon had an impressive basketball career in the MBA and PBA, considering the recognition he has garnered: MBA All-Star MVP award, MBA Discovery of the Year award, a member of the Philippine National Men’s Basketball team and the PBA All-Star, PBA Sportsmanship award, PBA Mythical Second Team award, PBA All-Star Three-Point Shootout champion, and three-time PBA champion.
He is a team player, who rises to the occasion when needed most with his outside sniping. That’s why his services were vital in the Philippine national teams of 2002 and 2007.
In 2015 while carrying the colors of Team Gilas Pilipinas, he played a major part in the team’s victory over Japan in the semifinals of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in China.
He saw action for a total of 744 games with four franchises in a 17-year career in the league wearing uniforms of Tanduay, San Miguel , Magnolia, Air 21 Express, Petron and Alaska. He averaged 26.1 minutes per game, 1.8 assists and 9.8 points per game.
Dondon was a blessed man and his story should as an inspiration to aspiring hoop stars to always have faith in the old adage that nothing is impossible. With reports from Clarisse Ramirez
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